Mercuri Mail

The India Journal of Mercuri International Apr – June 2021

Seize the moment ! Are you Sales Ready ?

4 Ice Cream Lessons to Shrug Off Pandemic Blues to Business
Must Read
Peaks and Valleys: Making Good and Bad Times Work for You - At Work and in Life by Spencer Johnson
Pandemic Ignites a Startup Surge: But Sales Model will Decide How Many Will Succeed

The road seems to be trending up! What’s new? Well, what goes down, comes up! The big question is, are we ready for the climb? For, fortune has always favoured the ready. Some of us may see a road ahead. Some of us may have to make our own road. The terrain is looking up from where we are now! That's good news! So, what are your thoughts around how you will claw back? To fuel your sales engine, here are some pointers from history, and from our own times. We are with you in this climb. Let’s do this together. Let's make Sales happen!



4 Ice Cream Lessons to Shrug Off Pandemic Blues to Business

Disruptions often have a fairytale ending

It was the 1830s. A cholera pandemic was raging across France. 3 percent of the Parisians died in less than a month. Hospitals were choked, not unlike the Covid overwhelmed health care of the recent months. With medicine still to make major advances, doctors were clueless.

And then? The April 2021 issue of The Economist has a surprise answer. The end of the plague kick started an economic revival and France quickly followed Britain into an industrial revolution!

Going by Economic data Covid may not be different The story wasn’t very different with the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. The Roaring ‘20s weren’t too far behind. The Economist says a similar trend appears to be at play in the current Covid 19 crisis also.

“Today, even as Covid-19 rages across poorer countries, the rich world is on the verge of a post-pandemic boom. Many forecasters reckon America’s economy will grow by more than 6 per cent this year, at least four percentage points faster than its pre-pandemic trend. Other countries are also in for unusually fast growth” the article points out. History seems to indicate that “after periods of massive non-financial disruption such as wars and pandemics, GDP does bounce back”.

Three trends repeated in history

One, people save first, then go out and spend. Two, people and businesses become more inclined to explore untried ways of doing things. Changes get accelerated and trends become settled practices. It is now recognized that Covid speeded up adoption of digital, for example. Three, in some countries a period of political instability follows.

Consumer spending is of greatest interest to the sales function. Here is what history tells us about earlier disruptions.

  • In the first half of the 1870s, during an outbreak of smallpox, Britain’s household-saving rate doubled.
  • Japan’s saving rate more than doubled during the first world war.
  • In 1919-20, as the Spanish flu raged, Americans stashed away more cash than in any subsequent year until the second world war
  • When that war hit, savings rose again, with households accumulating additional balances in 1941-45 worth some 40 per cent of GDP

“History also offers a guide to what people do once life gets back to normal. Spending rises, prompting employment to recover, but there is not much evidence of excess”

India too likely to weather the effect of Covid

Agrees Prof T T Ram Mohan of IIM Ahmedabad, writing for Business Standard “Hard-hearted as it may sound, there is no correlation between the loss of lives and national output. This truth was best exemplified in World War II. The Soviet Union lost an estimated 21 million lives in combatants alone, not to speak of the loss of civilian lives. Yet, industrial output, driven by wartime needs, boomed. Ditto in the United States and Britain. In Germany, we saw something even more striking. The strategic bombing of Germany, aimed at destroying the nation’s industrial infrastructure, failed miserably to disrupt the German war machine” He concludes that Indian economy would shrug off the effect of the Second Covid Wave.

Undreamt of Success Awaits the Sales Ready

So, as vaccinations scale affording widespread immunity and there is calibrated opening up, with transport getting freer, the coming months could be the start of a dream run for sales. But that’s provided sales is outfitted and battle ready with a fresh skill set required to take on the hybrid way of selling the emerging situation will demand.

A 150-year-old ice cream saga from USA proves the point.

Graeter's Ice Cream Story

blog on USA’s introduces The Graeter’s Ice Cream as the brand that has survived “Black Swan” events for more than 150 years and is all set to weather today’s Covid 19 too, with its new generation of owners. The Graeter’s brand proved to be resilient through economic depressions, pandemics and world wars. In 1918, founders Louis and Regina had to take Graeter’s safely through the Spanish flu in an era that had no miracle vaccines. They survived, thrived and passed down the business to the next generation in the family.

Graeter’s Secrets and 4 Ice Cream Lessons for Sales

What were Graeter’s secrets behind their surprising resilience over a century and half, a record bigger and more illustrious brands cannot boast of? The Graeter legend has 4 enduring sales lessons to offer:

1. Keep your enthusiasm and dedication fresh – The current owners listed unflagging dedication for product quality and memorable service as drivers of their incredible success

2. Don’t panic, you will make it – The present owners put it like this: “In the face of the present crisis, we have drawn strength from the knowledge that prior generations have faced and overcome even great challenges than we are facing today. Which leads to what has become our number one rule: Don’t panic”

3. Be ready to jump at opportunities as they arise – “Remain observant to unexpected opportunities and ready to pounce when they arrive” is the Graeter credo. It is illustrated in the way the brand handled the early days of the Covid quarantine. As quarantine measures took hold, “the shelves in the frozen food aisle in Cincinnati Kroger locations were emptied by the initial wave of “panic buying.” While this must have been happening all over the country, about which nothing could be done, Graeter had a freezer full of ice cream and an amazing dedicated team working overtime to fill up the freezers and empty endcaps. “Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success,” said Henry Ford.

4. Value obsession – Graeter’s ice creams are made using the French Pot process. That is regarded as a crazy way to freeze ice cream. “It is small-batch, time-consuming, labor-intensive, horrifically expensive way to freeze ice cream.” But, what “makes Graeter’s Graeter’s”, a value that inspires fanatical loyalty. So, the brand is obsessed with the little details of delivering that unique quality that it’s Customers expect of it, time after time. 

Better times may just be around the corner. Are we, in sales skilled anew and ready to grab the opportunities as they come up? Carpe Diem … Seize the moment


Pandemic Ignites a Startup Surge: But Sales Model will Decide How Many Will Succeed

Startup Surge – A Shining Bright Trend

Amidst all the dispiriting, doom scrolling of disaster news we seem to wake up to every morning, one shining bright trend has stood out

The Financial Times headlined it like this – “Pandemic triggers surge in business start-ups across major economies. US, UK, France, Germany and Japan register sharp rises in new company registrations.” New York Times declared that “Surge in start-ups is a surprise in the pandemic economy”. The Indian story was summed up by Economic Times, which said “2020 year in review: Risk investors pour $9.3 billion into Indian startups despite Covid-19 woes”

Counter Intuitive Advice from Zero to One

New startups are exciting, they are full of possibilities. You never know, there could be the next Apple or Google, hidden among them. But if you also wonder how many would survive and make it to maturity, Peter Thiel and Blake Masters have an answer in their book, Zero to One. Recommended by scholar and risk analyst Nassim Taleb as a book to be read not once but three times, Zero to One is widely regarded as a Bible of sorts for startups. It has loads of counter-intuitive advice on how to build a robust startup.

Critical Success Lesson– Sales Ability Matters

Zero to One draws a critical lesson from the Dot Com Bust of 2000 in which numerous Silicon Valley startups crashed. They were rightly obsessed about their products. But they forgot that sales matters as much as the product. “Engineers are biased toward building cool stuff rather than selling it” says the book “But customers will not come just because you build it. You have to make that happen, and it’s harder than it looks.”

  • • On Wall Street, a new hire starts as an “analyst” wielding technical expertise, but his goal is to become a dealmaker.
  • • A lawyer prides himself on professional credentials, but law firms are led by the rainmakers who bring in big clients.
  • • Even university professors, who claim authority from scholarly achievement, are envious of the self-promoters who define their fields.
  • • Academic ideas about history or English don’t just sell themselves on their intellectual merits.
  • • Even the agenda of fundamental physics and the future path of cancer research are results of persuasion” (arranged in bullets)

Sounds like hyperbole? The book points to irrefutable logic of why ability to sell is such an indispensable success trait for startups or any one starting out with an idea or product.

Even world-conquering product or idea needs selling

Begin with the product creator’s assumption that if it is great enough “it will sell itself.” Not true, say Thiel and Masters. The market truth is that “the best product doesn’t always win.” Many times, the best of products die a quiet death because no effort was made to sell it. “Economists attribute this to “path dependence” the book says, adding “It’s better to think of distribution as something essential to the design of your product. If you’ve invented something new but you haven’t invented an effective way to sell it, you have a bad business—no matter how good the product”

A sound sales strategy can in fact, help position a startup beyond competition, according to the authors. Their conclusion? “No matter how strong your product—even if it easily fits into already established habits and anybody who tries it likes it immediately—you must still support it with a strong distribution.” They memorably remind us “Everybody has a product to sell—no matter whether you’re an employee, a founder, or an investor. It’s true even if your company consists of just you and your computer. Look around. If you don’t see any salespeople, you’re the salesperson”

Key Action Takeaway: Poor sales rather than bad product is the most common cause of failure. So, acquiring sales ability can be key differentiator for startup success

Must Read

Peaks and Valleys: Making Good and Bad Times Work for You - At Work and in Life by Spencer Johnson

Some books, even a decade or more old, seem to be written for just the times we are living through.Peaks and Valleys belongs to that genre. This business parable from Dr Spencer Johnson, published in 2009 tells the story of a young man living unhappily in a valley. He then treks to a peak where he meets an old man. That meeting changes the young man’s life and work forever.

As his conversations with the old man unfold, the young man quickly realizes he is talking to someone who is remarkably successful and peaceful. In trying to apply what he learnt from the old man, the younger one picks up life principles and workable tools to navigate through good and bad times.

Here are the young man’s 5 life lessons, summarized at the end of the book, that we too can use to get us from the current valley to our next peak

1. Make reality your friend – Whether you are temporarily up on a Peak or down in a Valley, ask yourself: What is the truth in this situation?”

(Sales Learning: Peaks and valleys are a part of our journey through business and life. When you hit a low, see the situation for what it is, imagine yourself at the top, cast aside your fear and keep climbing. Avoid swinging between being pessimistic and overly confident. Use the valleys to reskill and renew)

2. Find and use the good hidden in a bad time – Relax, knowing that Valleys end. Do the opposite of what put you in the Valley. Get outside of yourself: be of more service at work and more loving in life. Avoid comparisons. Uncover the good that is hidden in a bad time, and use it soon to your advantage

(Sales Learning: You cannot always control external events, but you can control your personal Peaks and Valleys by what you believe and what you do. When an external crisis, disrupts our sales efforts, it is good to remember, how you feel is a function of how you view your situation. Your value as a professional is hardly connected with what happens due to outside forces. But the investments you make in strengthening Customer relationships and learning new ways of working when in a Valley will hasten your climb to the peak after crisis subsides)

3, Appreciate and manage your good times wisely – Be humble and grateful. Do more of what got you there. Keep making things better. Do more for others. Save resources for upcoming Valleys

(Sales Learning: Eventually when business gets better, it is easy to forget the hard-won learnings from the current situation. But you can choose to be different and continue to use the sales insights of the pandemic to sell more and deliver even better value to your Customers. Also stay focused on keeping yourself sharp through constant renewal)

4, Follow your sensible vision – Imagine yourself enjoying a better future in such specific, believable detail, that you soon enjoy doing what takes you there

(Sales Learning: Visualizing positive outcomes is as important for finding our way out of a valley as it is for making a sale happen. Relax, rest and trust that things will get better. Use the plateau for the 3 Rs – reflect, renew, reset)

5, Share it with others – Help people make good times and bad times work for them, too

(Sales Learning: Inspiring others in your team to make it through a difficult period can put you on the Peak faster. Manage your people by support and get them to focus on their sales efforts. Results will take care of themselves. A climb is all about unremitting efforts)

Quote to remember: “A personal peak is a triumph over Fear”

Author Bio: Spencer Johnson MD is the authors 11 international bestselling books in management and business literature including Who Moved My Cheese? one of the most widely books on change.  

Ravi's Corner

Nothing can stop you
    • Rays of light stream through the dark tunnel
    • A silver lining in the midnight cloud
    • The pink lotus emerges from the murky pond
    • Thin slices of sunshine penetrate the deep forest canopy

    • The parched earth sucks the tiny raindrops
    • Green shoots perk up with the fragrance of damp earth
    • The meadows prime up to display their blooms
    • The song bird clears his throat as the moist breeze fans his wings

    • As things around us are getting steadily better
    • Let’s build our energy and skill anew
    • With hope in our hearts and courage in our steps
    • Let’s grab what is waiting for us
    • “Ours” through hard work and honed capability

    • Nature is on the job
    • Just like the watchful soldier , always on duty

  • And you Mr Salesperson , wise up
  • Opportunities await your readiness


1. "If a window of opportunity appears, don't pull down the shade." Tom Peters

2. "Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them." William Arthur Ward

3. “Patience is not simply the ability to wait - it's how we behave while we're waiting” - Joyce Meyer

4. "Be fast, have no regrets... If you need to be right before you move, you will never win”- Mike Ryan, Epidemiologist at WHO

5. “Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.” – Steve Maraboli

6. “In the face of adversity, we have a choice. We can be bitter, or we can be better. Those words are my North Star.” – Cary Sullivan

7. “We are all navigating this new normal together. As we lock arms virtually and try to help one another in the ways we can, our vast world suddenly feels a little smaller and a lot more connected. And for that, we are grateful.” – Michael Dell, CEO of Dell

8. “Sellers who’ve embraced social media are creating new opportunities that totally bypass traditional sales channels. It’s about good selling – using all the tools that are available to you today.” – Jill Konrath

9. “It’s time to go where your buyers live: online. If you pride yourself on being where your buyers are, why aren’t you online yet?” – Jamie Shanks

10. “Sales organizations must be able to sell to customers everywhere the customer expects to engage, interact and transact with suppliers” – Gartner Survey


Digital Freeway Ahead, Check Your Sales Skill Dashboard

If there’s one good thing, Covid will be remembered for, it’s the digital acceleration it forced on the world. In the matter of months, according to some estimates, a decade of digital adoption was delivered. Salespersons the first to adapt to change, as always, went virtual with sales. Even B2B took to it.

So, what’s the road ahead, when business improves rapidly on the back of steady progress in vaccination and calibrated opening up? What new sales skills would the post pandemic world call for? These snippets excerpted from Supertrends, published by ProSales (Now Mercuri International Research) take a close look at the sales-skill dashboard:

Value of information with salesperson has shrunk dramatically - “… with the rise of the Internet …. the value of information (available with salespeople) simply shrank when Customers could access it on their own via digital channels, such as comparison sites, guidelines, do-it-yourself articles, reviews, product videos, and real-time help from their networks via social media. The market research company Forrester has demonstrated in one of its studies that 74 percent of B2B buyers perform half of their research on their own on the Internet before they contact a sales rep or make a purchasing decision. The same study also showed that 90 percent of all purchases begin with an Internet search”

Traditional, transactional sales logic is no longer relevant – “If Customer purchases are routine, the sales rep’s role becomes less and less important and the Customer can just as well perform the purchase on her own. This is a transactional sales logic, where the sales rep is partially or entirely replaced by digital marketing and sales via e-commerce platforms. This traditional sales logic is being nibbled away at the edges at an increasing pace, by automated transactional sales.”

Complex sales logic pitchforks you into an advisory role but calls for new skills – “However, if the Customers’ needs are complex, different or tailored in character, the Customer’s need of qualified advice increases. Here, the sales representative fills an ever-larger role and her task is shifted from being an information provider to adding value – beyond the actual offer. The sales rep becomes thereby, by definition, more of a consultant, advisor and business developer, tasked with differentiating its services by adapting and creating unique values for its clients with those types of needs. This type of emerging logic is defined as complex sales logic.”

The middle segment too is rapidly losing ground – “The lukewarm middle segment where traditional sales logic existed is increasingly experienced as less value-generating, uninspiring and without direction, and is thereby a dangerous path to follow”

Reflection Questions: (1) What do your typical sale transactions look like? Are they transactional sales or complex sales? Or something in between? (2) How much of your selling activity has become virtual now? What percentage will stay that way? (3) What is your comfort with virtual selling? (4) What additional skills do you need to meet the demands of the post pandemic sales template?


And Calvin has a plan to jumpstart buyer demand …

(From: New York Times)

“Listen John, a salesperson must always be closing, no matter what”

Mercuri Mail is a thoughtful compilation of meaningful articles drawn from Mercuri India archives, and from timeless management literature. Edited by Jaishankar Balasubramaniam & Sridhar Srinivasan of Mercuri Goldmann (India) Pvt. Ltd. This publication is for private circulation only.; |

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